Black water, gray water, oily bilge water, sewage, bunker fuel, smokestack exhaust . . . all discharging and billowing out of cruise ships and into our ocean and air.
According to Friends of the Earth, a large cruise ship (the largest of which can carry over 5,000 passengers and crew) on a one week voyage is estimated to generate 210,000 gallons (or 5 large swimming pools) of human sewage and 1 million gallons (33 more swimming pools) of gray water (water from sinks, baths, showers, laundry, and galleys). Cruise ships also generate large volumes of oily bilge water, sewage sludge, garbage and hazardous wastes.
The few international regulations which apply to cruise ship discharges and emissions are archaic and are ignored by the cruise industry with little consequence.
A few states, like Alaska, have strict state guidelines. But take a look at Cruise Junkie’s website and see how often cruise lines "comply" with waste water restrictions. A quick browse of the list leads to the conclusion that cruise ships are not so eco-friendly.
Oceania reports that "cruise ships are one of the largest sources of unregulated ocean pollution and exempt from the discharge permitting program of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s preeminent water pollution control law." Oceania further reports that "this means that the monitoring, inspection, reporting, and enforcement provisions of this law do not apply to cruise ships … As a result, the public has no way of knowing whether or not they are following their corporate environmental policies."
The cruise industry’s practices has the attention of Congress. Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Sam Farr are on a mission to change the cruise industry. In October 2009, these Congressmen introduced two bills in both Houses of Congress to prevent cruise ships from discharging raw (untreated) sewage in U.S. coastal waters. Congressman Farr released a statement that "laws currently allowing cruise lines to dump untreated sewage three miles from the shore endangers public health, the environment and the economy."
Senator Durbin introduced "Durbin’s Bill," which will extend the Clean Water Act to regulate cruise ship wastewater. Congressman Farr introduced an almost identical bill.
Both bills are commonly referred to as the Clean Cruise Ship Act.
In honor of Earth Day, I encourage you to do some research regarding the cruise industry’s practices of discharging waste and emitting bunker fuel particles. Support the Clean Cruise Ship Act. Make certain that you do your part to protect our waters and the air we breath.
"Generations come and generations go, but the Earth is forever."
For additional information, watch the Friends of the Earth Video "Investigating Cruise Ship Pollution."
Cruise Ship Cartoon Shields via earthIsland.org and Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waterways